rookie review: bottlehouse brewing company

i am sure i am not unique in that when i wake up on a sunny summer day with no major responsibilities or obligations, my first thought is: how can i make patio beers happen today? as a person who is convinced i have seasonal affective disorder, a sunny day presents an exciting opportunity, but also a certain amount of pressure, to take full advantage of the weather. living in the midwest, we wait through long and brutal winters and rainy and disappointing springs for the short and sweet summer we are provided. i want to spend every sunny and warm minute outside, with friends, being active, and possibly eating and drinking. thus, one of the first things i look for in cool bars and restaurants in the summer months is outdoor seating. in fact, i'd go so far as to say that in the right circumstances, i prefer a patio to extraordinary food or drinks. and thus begins my first rookie review of a bar in cleveland.

scott and i took fiona to bottlehouse brewing company on lee road monday afternoon. we'd done as many non-drinking activities outside as we could think of before hand. laying on lawn chairs, a long walk to get iced coffee, and an outdoor basketball game for scott led us to finally rewarding ourselves with patio beers on a really perfect memorial day. we had been to bottlehouse once before, a few years ago after dinner, and the patio had been pretty packed. but we pulled up monday at 4:07 to a bar that had opened at 4, and thus were the first and only customers in attendance. this is always great when you bring a baby to a bar, at least in my mind, because you get to avoid that initial judgement from other parties who watch as you clumsily navigate your stroller through bar stools and servers to find a space to park your baby and get a drink. we grabbed a table on their sidewalk patio and i headed in to check out the beer menu.

i hadn't realized before that the actual name of the place is bottlehouse brewery and meadery, but there were several meads on draft. this is kind of perplexing to me as i don't quite understand mead. it conjures up images of medieval times and giant mugs and hot spiced wine. i love cider but have never had mead. i asked the very helpful bartender if mead is anything like cider and she said that it can be kind of sweet like cider, but it's not carbonated. she lost me on the "no carbonation" point and i decided to try the "tempo" cider i spotted on the menu. i guess maybe it shouldn't surprise me that a brewery who also focuses on meads wouldn't have the most effervescent or enticing cider, but i was not-very-pleasantly surprised when i took a sip of my cider that it tasted kind of... flat. and it was room temperature. not one to leave a drink behind, i finished it and headed back to the bar to try to redeem my impression of the place.

on the second go around i tried a new-to-me variety, called spring gruit. i was especially interested in this beer when the bartender mentioned it is brewed without hops. i know that i am in the minority out of most modern beer drinkers in that i DESPISE hops. i hate the grassy, bitter, mouth-puckering taste any amount of hops gives to a beer. give me all the malty, lemony, citrus flavors of wheat, hefeweizen and farmhouse beers, all day long. i can't even make it past a few sips of any kind of pale ale. ANYWAY this is why the spring gruit was right up my alley. it was malty, easy to drink, and perhaps most importantly for a patio beer: it was cold. this beer redeemed my experience at bottlehouse. i should also note that scott was pleased with his beer - a smoked ale that he noted could have been smokier, but was good nonetheless. and, for all the babies out there, fiona enjoyed her experience, especially because she wasn't confined to her stroller, and the patio is dog friendly (sorry kosar, next time!) and a group a few tables over had an entertaining black lab for her to watch.

so i guess my final review for bottlehouse is that the few beers we tried were okay, but the opportunity to drink those beers on a patio on a beautiful day made the experience so much better. 


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